During this years lecture the theme was to personally reflect on the meaning of Tula’s legacy in contemporary context, which I would like to pharaphrase as “What has Tula taught me?”After this years Tula commemorations that took place accross several (caribbean) cities across the Kingdom of the Netherlands, there were two points of reflection that I took away:
First of all, the uprising in 1795 came about in relation to the events of elsewhere in the Caribbean and the metropoles. Stories about the Haitian revolution and slave revolts in Venezula made their way to Curacao. To think of the Tula revolt as an isolated incident would be to deny the relation that exposes the connectedness between the worlds of Touissant L’Ouveture, Dutch life under Napoleons rule and the network of abolitionists across the Atlantic.
Secondly, Tula is seen by many as a Curacaon hero of slaves. Granted, mainstream literature about Tula rapidly changed in discourse over decades as Tula’s work and legacy had been criminalized previously. These days his legacy is remembered as Curacaon or Antillean history. However, for him to be also acknowledged as rather a Dutch hero is not easily assumed. The recent stories about Tula depict him as a rebel or activist at times, who was brave and resourceful, but undeniably also as a slave. What happens if we also think of him as an intellectual?
Considering the time, place, circumstances and his skills to navigate in multiple languages, his alleged study of retorics and his ability to call to enslaved communities cross-culturally and initate insurgence, it seems more that fair to consider him a Dutch activist and intellectual who fought for justice, equality and freedom in a time where there was none. To limit the story of Tula to merely a local Antillean tale, to limit Tula’s work to something rebellious is to deny how Tula’s life, work and legacy was always in relation larger forces of resistance and freedom in the New World, and the world we live in today. This year I hope to learn from Tula to look beyond the obvious, but also to ask the question: what can I make anew from what has already been given meaning?
A version of this post was previously featured in the september 2019 issue of the newsletter of the Caribbean Studies Association.